The Rebirth of a Medieval Pilgrimage Route: A Study of the Modern-day Via Francigena Pilgrims

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2018-08-03

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Today, the long-neglected Via Francigena, a 1,180-mile medieval pilgrimage route between Canterbury, England, and Rome, is attracting an increasing number of 21st-century visitors. Between the 4th and 16th centuries, streams of pilgrims traveled this path to the Eternal City; however, after the 17th century, pilgrim travel waned. In contrast to the situation 500 years ago, during the past 20 years, a significant number of trekkers and cyclists have followed the footsteps of the medieval pilgrims. Surprisingly, little research has been conducted on the profiles of the contemporary Via Francigena travelers and their motives for undertaking a pilgrimage. Incorporating quantitative and qualitative research methods, this study explores the modern-day Via Francigena travelers’ demographics and their reasons for embarking on such a journey. The Autoethnographic research explored the experience of today’s pilgrim, as the author walked 200 miles (322 km) of the route in the fall of 2017 and the spring of 2018. The results of a survey (N = 208) conducted for this study suggests that the pilgrims of today are connected spiritually with the route; however, the majority did not consider themselves religious. Since the vast majority of the study subjects confirmed that their Via Francigena journey was a positive experience, the Council of Europe and the Via Francigena’s governing councils within the route’s 29 stages should incorporate these travelers’ motives and their profiles in future development and promotion planning.

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Daily, Kathryn (2018). The Rebirth of a Medieval Pilgrimage Route: A Study of the Modern-day Via Francigena Pilgrims. Capstone project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/17313.


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